Sunday, September 25, 2022

Running in Austin, Texas: Town Lake & Barton Creek

I used to travel to Austin for work, visiting IBM. Then visiting family, Max, when he was working at IBM Design in Austin. Since we don't travel for work much more, and Max moved to another career path, how about visiting friends?

It felt great to be back albeit only for a weekend, but a busy one, and a hot one with temperatures above 90F, unusual even for Austin according to many locals. On Sunday we even went to a French festival where one of the booths was serving the famous traditional onion soup! That chef acknowledged they had set on a menu weeks before they knew it was going to be so hot! He was also serving samples of a delicious Opera cake, that was much more appropriate. But I digress, let's get back to some running.

On Saturday morning, 19 miles, downtown. On Sunday morning, 10 miles on the Southwest outskirts of Austin where our friends have settled, principally along SH45. And many ounces of sweat lost, that was tough! It didn't help that, in that heat, I ran the first 10 miles at 7:10 min/mile along Agn├Ęs and our friends on rental bikes, some good emulation! At least a good 67-mile week overall. And finishing the run with a swim in the natural pool of Barton Springs was quite a treat to cool down!

My only regret was to miss Dick Collins Firetrails this Saturday and the traditional Trailblazer 10K organized by the Friends of the Stevens Creek Trail, a race I ran 13 times already between 2002 and 2018 and which I was excited to get back to after the pandemic hiatus. That will have to wait for next year! Meanwhile, between the busy booth of the Trail Conservancy and good signage reminding us about the importance of keeping creeks healthy in multiple places, I felt some communion with my Stevens Creek community this weekend.

I've some important work milestones this week so let's keep the post short and leverage the many words which a video may be worth, here is the fly-over of my downtown run (click on the link or the screen shot below). Now, it of course can't convey the heat, nor the many runners met on the trail: Austin has runners! And this circuit is really a great place to log a few miles, between outstanding views over the lake and a lot of nature, especially continuing on with the trails along Barton Creek. Just a caveat: these ones have some technical rocky sections!

A couple of interesting ideas gleaned on the way:

1. An invitation to tip the trail!

2. Neighborhood mailbox hubs to optimize/minimize the USPS stops:

'till next time, Austin, Texas and your Longhorns!

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Post #700: the ultra journey must go on!

I was already one year into my ultra running journey when I jumped on the blogging bandwagon, a trend which many have left since for other micro post social platforms. 15.5 years, this is another form of commitment, and endurance. For 11 of these years I posted every week in average. Between the pandemic and my recent 3.5-year long injury, I went for weeks, sometimes months, without posting, short of running-related updates. At times I thought I might be done as my sport medicine doctor feared the injury was going to turn chronic. I've still so much to rebuild but I'm at least getting back to some solid running which is encouraging.

We are only mid September and I already logged 2,000 miles this year, much more than the 1,260 in 2019 or even last year's total 1,800. For 8 years (2011-2018) I logged 3,200 miles a year, or an average of 100K a week, but maybe it became too much, in my mid 50s. Some actually log much more, but maybe not at the same intensity. Or, again, at that age. I'm right above 85K/week right now and not trying nor risking to push farther this time. I wish there was more formulas and analytics out there to figure out the right goal, but our body is so complex, it's the perfect time to remind ourselves that "ultra running is an experiment of one." A useful quote for the coaching business as well, as it states the importance of personalized training strategies.

Without a specific training plan but always races in the future to set my mind on, I decided to celebrate this milestone with... an ultra of course! While many may need either aid station support or motivation to complete an ultra, I have the chance to actually run and enjoy ultras on my own. Out of 485 ultra runs I have in my log, only 181 (39%) have been races. The other 300 have been mostly solo, a few group runs, like Fat Ass format. For these past golden years I used to run between 30 to 38 ultras a year. Then it fell to 15, 12 and 19 during the injury. I'm back at 20 year to date, steadily rebuilding up...

Now, in these statistics, I'm using the mathematical definition of ultra, that is any run longer than a marathon. For some hard core ultra runners like AJW (Andy Jones-Wilkins), a 50K, even an hilly one, is barely an ultra. Since I'm a few years older, I'll dare to disagree. With such thinking, and the advent of 200-mile races for instance, where to draw the line? I get he is teasing us, certainly there is a wide range of variability within our sport, most notably between the terrain and distances. With this preamble, and the fact that my upcoming races will be on asphalt, I went for one of my local favorite flat easy 50K, from Cupertino to Palo Alto's Baylands, mostly on the Stevens Creek Trail and through Shoreline Park.

Nothing epic and worth a long post, just another good training run, for the love of... work! I even managed to not have to stop my watch for the first half, a bit of a fate with some major artery crossings. For that reason, I only stopped to take pictures on the way back. The out was actually much harder because of some strong head winds along the Bay. Not counting the time stopping to refill my bottles and take picture, I ended up right on an equal split (twice 1:58). With the first mile being the first one (8:04) as it takes me more time to get the machine going these days and mile 30 being the fastest at 7:10.

7:10 min/mile... Close to the pace that Aleksandr Sorokin hold for 24 hours to improve his world record to 198.6 miles, this weekend, at the European Championships! For 25 years we all thought that Kourous' record was untouchable and there you are, a late comer to ultra running, someone I've heard might have been a smoker even, killing all records from 100 miles, 12 hours, 24 hours and more. He already has a Wikipedia page which is sure to get longer! You see, although I felt I had a good run given the circumstances, speed is relative...

Even after more than decades in the Bay, I'm still like a kid when seeing pelicans. Such majestic birds that I rarely saw live, if ever, in my childhood in France.

Another blessing of living in the Bay Area, Steve Patt could tell you how many hundreds of these North American birds he has spotted in the area. (Sorry for the poor light reflection, picture taken through the window of the historic Sea Scout Base.)

Here is fly over video to situate this run in the parks, with a few pictures on the way back (click on this URL or the image below). By the way, I have no idea how Relive is displaying an elevation of 2,000 feet while he highest point on this run is 250 feet. Even Strava's 570 feet is suspicious enough. Room for improvement! As for the calorie count, 1,700 seem on the low side for 31 miles (I just compensated with 400 calories, #fatisyourfuel as we say with Vespa Power!).

I'll miss those running Dick Collins Firetrails 50 next week but hope to see many at our Grand Prix finale at Ruth Anderson on October 8. Most likely an October Fest for my beer drinking buddies! ;-) And a Speed Fest for a handful, I'll write more about this shortly.

PS: 90,000 solar panels on this carapace over Google's office.